The extremist “Our Land of Israel” group that opposes any negotiations with Arabs or relinquishing of conquered territory staged a provocative march Wednesday in Umm al-Fahm, the second largest Palestinian-Israeli city in Israel. Palestinian-Israeli young people demonstrated by throwing stones, and Israel police responded with force, deploying stun grenades and bAton charges. The ensuing clashes left about a dozen Injured one each side. Among those wounded were two Arab members of the Israeli parliament or knesset.
In part the right wing Israelis were protesting the establishment there of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, a fundamentalist group with growing influence among Palestinian-Israelis, who comprise over 20% of Israel’s population. The right-wingers say that the Islamic Movement is allied with Hamas.
The clash is a further sign of an increasing divide between Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Israelis, with each turning to fundamentalist religion in ever greater numbers. Russian Israelis, most of whom have immigrated since 1991, are especially militant about subordinating and even denaturalizing and expelling the Palestinian-Israelis. They are seeking to impose a loyalty oath. There are also recent moves toward excluding Palestinian-Israelis from some Jewish housing complexes, in a move that evokes Apartheid South Africa or Jim Crow in the old American South.
To the perennial problem of Israel’s relationship with the exiled Palestinians chased out in 1948 is increasingly being added the question of communal coexistence inside Israel. And that question is even more dangerous.